Narendra Modi's surprise victory came as a shock to political pundits who now blame it on the brilliant marketing of the Modi brand. They refuse to look at the monopoly he enjoyed as there was no other brand as big, as national as Modi. Rahul was a brand Rahul wasn't sure of. While Modi's message was straight and clear: What you see is what you will get. Read more
Narendra Modi is readying his head for the crown. As the dust settles down on the saffron surprise, it's becoming increasingly clear that India and its politics may never be the same. Nothing official about it, but we are entering the presidential system of election while staying with the parliamentary form of government.
The goalposts have shifted. Congress has always been the primary pole in this bipolar arrangement, where parties of different hues came together to form rainbow coalitions to take on the grand old party led by strong leaders with pan-Indian appeal. The transition began with the coalition era when Congress was forced to form its own UPA coalition against the NDA coalition. The transition is complete now as the BJP has got a majority of its own. It has a strong leader with pan-India appeal. For almost three decades, a leader was not as important as the collective called party and abstracts like ideology.
The primary reason Narendra Modi powered the BJP to a clear majority is that people desire something solid over the abstract. Call it the rise of materialism, but people want to see the product before buying it. BJP sensed it better than Congress. It offered them Narendra Modi. Congress didn't openly put Rahul Gandhi on the table but he was what Congress attempted to sell. While it put Rahul Gandhi on the hoardings that dotted the landscape, it fought shy of calling him the leader. The third front had no product of its own. They wanted people to vote for different leaders in different states and left the question of leadership unanswered.
The results show that people chose the one they could clearly see. Good or bad, but Modi was available to people across the country. He went all over the country, sold himself as the prime minister candidate. He was on TV, he was in rallies, he was at tea sessions and appeared in 3D avatars. He said candidates do not matter, as long as you voted for BJP, you would vote for me. He turned it into a presidential election. He changed the game. In the end, he won because he was contesting alone. Every party else was playing the old game. The ones who understood this managed to save it. The other winners in this election were Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik. All three were for real. They wanted votes for themselves. There was no mixed message, no confusion. Their voters had seen their work and they stood guarantee for the future. People liked that kind of accountability. Those who gave mixed messages perished. They couldn't answer the natural why from the voter. Both Mayawati and Samajwadi Party were seen as allies of the Congress, the party at the receiving end of public ire. Samajwadi Party did not put up candidates against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi but claimed to be opposed to the Congress. Along with the Samajwadis, Mayawati kept the UPA government in Delhi propped up for 10 years. The two suffered the defeat because they lacked conviction when criticising the UPA governments. People were desperate for change and these two parties looked the opposite of change. Naveen Patnaik has better managed his anti-Congress and anti-BJP politics by being equidistant from both. So has Jayalalitha, whose friendship with Modi didn't deter her voters because she fought bitterly against the Modi's rainbow coalition in Tamil Nadu. Mamata Banerjee was ruthless on both. She has been part of both the NDA and UPA, but since going alone in Bengal she hasn't relented in her attacks on Congress or BJP.
The rest became history because the voter saw through the smokescreen. They wanted to put a face to the campaign. Mamata, Jaya and Naveen were the credible faces of their parties. The voter knew in whose name their parties asked for votes. Raj Thackeray's MNS failed to flutter because he sought support in Modi's name. His voters voted for Modi's ally Shiv Sena.
In whose name did Congress seek votes? In 2009, it did so in Manmohan Singh's name. Voters did not disappoint the party. In 2014, it dithered in officially declaring Rahul's name, who himself was no less reluctant. After an accidental prime minister, a reluctant prime minister was the last thing the country wanted. BJP knew its ideology was all over the place. Modi, warts and all, was at least a name that was saleable for his performance in Gujarat. All that the Congress could offer was its ideology because its performance was not an attractive proposition. BJP sought a mandate in Modi's name. Congress sought a mandate in no name. When go seeking, you must declare in whose name you seek. Even beggars seek alms in god's name. Allah ke naam pe de de baba!